According to the U.S. Census, Scioto County has a population of 78,017, of which many lack a high school diploma and many more have no higher education experience. In 2015, 15.4 percent of people 18-24 living in Scioto County did not have a high school diploma and only 3.2 percent had a bachelors degree. Furthermore, of those over 25, 5.9 percent did not complete ninth grade, 11.6 percent had no high school diploma, only 8.2 percent had an associates degree, on 8.6 percent had a bachelors degree and only 5.8 percent had a graduate degree.
New Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) Outreach Coordinator Austin Raines is looking to change those statistics by reaching out to those people that have dreams of getting their high school equivalency and/or going to college.
EOC is a federally funded program that has coordinators at universities across Ohio including Southern State, Zane State, Rio Grande, Midwest Career and Technical Center, Ohio University Southern and Shawnee State University. Coordinators through the program help first generation and/or low-income individuals that will be 19 by the end of the year to reach their educational goals — whether those be to attain a GED or attend college.
Raines says he is willing to do anything he can to help people attain higher levels of education. Through the program, he is available to help with school applications, school selection, choosing a major, setting up orientations and tours, filing for financial aid, getting transcripts, career awareness, financial literacy, setting up testing, getting support for veterans, legal issues and even personal barriers.
Raines has a background in working with individuals transitioning into higher education. In the Spring of 2016, he developed a Mentoring and Preparing Students (MAPS) program, which piloted at New Boston High School. The program worked to help high school students transition to college by working with them on many of the services he now offers through EOC. From there, he went to work on the Bridge Program, which also works with transition students with a target of those that need remedial courses. Through the program, those students can take such courses for a one-time $50 fee that includes textbooks. The courses are completed in the summer, so that students can start fresh in the fall. In addition to being helpful to students, the program assists with school retention by asking students to make a small but personal investment in their education.
Through these experiences, Raines continued to work towards his goal of become an adviser.
“Advising has always been my go to what I want to do for the rest of my life thing,” Raines stated. “I like hearing people’s stories and helping people see how important an education is.”
Raines had applied for several advising positions, but had not been hired. Then, when the position opened up for the EOC Coordinator, he knew that this would be a great opportunity. Raines says that he thinks the role is so fitting for him because he can relate to the hardships of anyone, either through his own personal experiences or through experiences of those close to him. Even in situations where his experience may be limited, he can find the right resource to help.
Raines own personal experiences have given him to determination and dedication to helping others.
“In this position we actually deal with low-income and first generation (students), and that’s me,” he stated. “I literally grew up low-income, and I went to New Boston with a graduating class of under 30. I was surrounded by low-income and a lot first generation. And, when I came here (college), I was honestly a nervous wreck. No one in my family has a degree.”
When he started college, he was not sure which path to take or where to find assistance. He had to talk to people, “maneuver” his way through the experience and ask a lot of questions. Now, it is so important for him to share what he learned along the way and to help make the process easier for others by assisting with anything holding them back.
“I want to share that experience with everyone else and help people see how important it is to further your education. To be a part of that is overwhelmingly exciting for me,” Raines commented.
Raines stressed that though he works through Shawnee State University, he does not only work with people who want to go to college there. He can help anyone go to any school that takes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including vocational schools.
In his goal to reach as many people in need as possible, Raines plans to work with local high school to reach those students that will be turning 19 and meet the requirements. He is currently working with New Boston Schools. He also goes out and assists those that are working towards their GEDs through the Adult Basic and Literacy Education (ABLE) program. However, Raines is looking to not only assists those already enrolled in high school or ABLE. He is eager to speak with anyone looking into furthering their education.
“I think that this is so important because in Scioto County we hear about so many of the negative aspects of things going on around here. So often we forget some of the great things that are going on. This program offers to assistance with your GED or going college or vocational school. It is just trying to help them on their path to what they determine as success.”
Anyone interested in services through Raines is encouraged to call him directly on his cell at 740-456-7807, in his office at 740-354-3744 or by email at 740-351-3744. He is also eager to set of visits with any schools that may be interested in having him speak to students.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930